St. John’s has added advantage against Fighting Irish

Chad Riley knows more about the Notre Dame men’s soccer team than any other opposing assistant coach. And it’s not because he’s spent more time in the film room than his counterparts.

Riley, St. John’s first-year assistant coach, graduated from Notre Dame in 2004 and was an All-Big East second team selection as a senior playing for Fighting Irish coach Bobby Clark.

So, when the Irish came to Belson Stadium Friday night, Riley had a little more in-depth perspective about how Notre Dame might play the Red Storm.

“He knows pretty well what we’re going to do,” Clark said. “That was an advantage that maybe we didn’t have.”

Or maybe one No. 10 St. John’s didn’t need in front of a near packed house of 1,619 in the team’s home and Big East opener.

“It’s never going to be an easy game playing here at Belson,” Clark said.

Matt Groenwald, who has owned Notre Dame over the past three years, scored both goals in the Red Storm’s 2-1 victory.

St. John’s has a record of 9-2-3 against the team from South Bend in the last 14 meetings.

With St. John’s win against Marquette Sunday, it stands at 24-2-5 at Belson Stadium, the only two losses coming in postseason play against West Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament last season and Creighton in the NCAA Tournament in 2002.

And Groenwald, who has scored at least one goal in his last three games against the Irish, certainly did not need Riley to give him pointers on how to crack a solid, physical Notre Dame defense.

“He’s been a scourge of ours,” Clark said of Groenwald.

“I guess I just prepare really well to play Notre Dame,” Groenwald explained.

St. John’s coach Dave Masur, known for his own preparation skills, did not look to Riley at all as someone to shed new light on the Fighting Irish game plan.

“I didn’t want to put Chad in an awkward position,” Masur said. “We’ve played Notre Dame a certain way and I didn’t want to push on Chad’s expertise.”

That certain way has been near dominance against Riley’s former team, which came into the game ranked 14th in the country.

But the games played between the two teams have always been spirited and meaningful.

Notre Dame is perennially one of the best teams in the Big East and one of the toughest challenges St. John’s will face this season.

“A rivalry has been built up,” Riley said, “and they’ve always been great, high energy games.”